Highlighting the Need for Autism New Jersey’s Healthcare Consortium

April 28, 2023

Hope was the theme of the night of April 26th in Newark. North Ward Center CEO and Founder of the Center for Autism Michele Adubato and Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan co-hosted a “Night of Hope” to promote improvements in access to quality healthcare for individuals with autism. The evening brought together autism advocates, state and local officials, healthcare professionals and funders, and the Newark community for a fun-filled fair, with music, food, games, a sensory room, and autism information booths.

The event was attended by hundreds of families from the autism community as well as Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor Marin, Deputy Executive Director of the Assembly Majority Office Sonia Das, Deputy Commissioner of Human Services Kaylee McGuire and Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Seifried, Special Child Health Executive Director Dr. Sandra Howell, New Jersey IDD Ombudsman Paul Aronsohn, University Hospital President and CEO Ed Jimenez, among other distinguished guests.

“Night of Hope 2 was a great success, with over 500 people in attendance,” said Adubato. “Our community gathered in a synergetic, high-energy event that highlighted the need for quality healthcare for people with autism,” she added. “Thanks to Suzanne and Autism New Jersey for co-hosting the event. We had a great time with the audience and brought a message of joy and purpose.”

The evening included a program addressing the barriers that individuals with autism and their families face when trying to access high-quality, compassionate healthcare.

“People with autism need more healthcare, get less, are less satisfied with the care they receive, and have worse health outcomes,” said Dr. Buchanan during her remarks on Wednesday evening. “Our healthcare system is not designed to support the individualized and flexible care they require.”

To tackle these health disparities, Dr. Buchanan announced the launch of the Autism New Jersey Healthcare Consortium. The consortium will be the first statewide interdisciplinary group focused on the health and healthcare needs of individuals with autism. The consortium will bring together leaders from all aspects of healthcare and autism treatment including, health-related trade associations, healthcare systems, healthcare provider practices, autism treatment provider agencies, and funders dedicated to improving the delivery of medical services to autistic patients.

“We know good things are happening, but they are too isolated. We need a high-level coordinated effort to make autism-friendly practices the industry standard,” said Lauren Frederick, M.A., BCBA, Director of Clinical Initiatives at Autism New Jersey. “The Autism New Jersey Healthcare Consortium will bring together the leaders within healthcare and autism services who can truly affect change. For too long, families have had to advocate for what their loved one needs at the doctor’s office. It’s time we all advocate right alongside them.”

The night celebrated an example of one of these best practices by giving an award to Jennifer LeComte, D.O., Medical Director of the Rowan Virtua Regionally Integrated Special Needs Center. Her tireless work and dedication to providing disability-centric healthcare and educating new providers is a model to all.

Learn more about our Advancing Healthcare Initiative and the Healthcare Consortium.